Nunavut nursing students: We’re as good as nurses anywhere in Canada

Fourth year Nunavut nursing grads meet national standards


As fourth-year nursing students from the Nunavut Arctic College we would like to take this opportunity to talk about our experiences regarding the Arctic Nursing Bachelor of Science in Nursing, here in Iqaluit.

We began this program in September of 2009, and over the last three years we have been challenged academically, mentally, and physically. One challenge we continue to face is public perceptions regarding the credibility of our program, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Arctic Nursing offered at NAC.

Some statements that we have encountered are as follows:

• “Your program does not meet the national standards”

• “You write a different (easier) exam than the rest of Canada”

• “People are “pushed” through the program”

• “You are limited to employment in Nunavut after graduation”

• “You have limited clinical experience”

• “It’s only a diploma program”

• “It’s an easy program”

These are just to state a few. As your future registered nurses we would like to take this opportunity to clarify some of these beliefs and raise public awareness about this program.

The Nunavut Nursing Program

As defined on the NAC website, the Nunavut Nursing program is a “four year baccalaureate degree program that focuses on nursing in Nunavut and is developed collaboratively between NAC and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Graduates of the BScN Arctic Nursing program will have the necessary knowledge, judgement, and skills to write the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination, which is written by all graduating nursing students across Canada. After successful completion of the CRNE, graduates of the program are eligible for registration not only in their jurisdiction but in any jurisdiction across Canada.”

Like any other university program there are entrance requirements and a full application process. Each applicant must have a Grade 12 diploma, including academic math and sciences, or have successfully completed the college foundation program offered at NAC. Applicants must also have a criminal record clearance, write a letter indicating interest in the program, as well as provide letters of reference.

The program follows the Dalhousie University Nursing program curriculum standards. Since our program is off-site, we follow a set of policies that may not necessarily apply to bigger university classes.

This includes mandatory attendance at all classes, labs, and clinical experiences. Courses for each year in the four-year program are offered once per academic year from September to June. Our curriculum is structured in a way that puts more pressure on students to be successful in every course, because failure to complete a course may put a student behind an entire year.

Every academic year students are required to complete a defined number of clinical practice hours. During this time students must meet the clinical and course requirements and objectives successfully. We are also required to follow nursing practice standards as well as the principles outlined in the Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses. We, have more clinical hours in our program then many programs in the South.

Due to the perceptions concerning the credibility of this program we often feel anxiety and pressure that our skill level, knowledge, and confidence will not compare with our southern counterparts.

However, as a part of our third year clinical practice, every NAC BScN student is required to complete an eight-week placement in Halifax. During this placement we are partnered with the third-year Dalhousie nursing students. This provides an opportunity to evaluate the progress of Nunavut students alongside the Halifax based students academically, professionally, and clinically.

Six weeks of this placement is done at the Halifax Infirmary and two weeks at the Nova Scotia Hospital, a mental health facility.

Each year NAC BScN students receive positive feedback regarding their clinical performance from Dalhousie instructors.

During the fourth year, all students are required to complete a four to five week clinical placement in a smaller community in Nunavut.

This placement allows students to become more independent and exercise critical thinking skills in a remote community where resources may be limited. This is beneficial because in some of these locations primary health care is provided solely by the nursing staff at a health center. This is an experience that is unique to the NAC nursing program.

All of our courses are the same courses offered at Dalhousie University. However, there is a cultural component incorporated into each course which concentrates on Nunavut and northern culture. This enables us to grow and understand the population that we are providing care for. NAC BScN students are also required to complete two advanced courses, advanced pharmacology and advanced health assessment,which help prepare grads for rural and remote nursing in the communities.

However this does not make a new grad from NAC an “advanced practice nurse.”

Upon successful completion of required courses and clinical hours all canadian BScN grads are required to write the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination.

Once you successfully pass the CRNE “Each provincial and territorial nursing regulatory body in Canada is responsible for ensuring that the individuals it registered as nurses meet an acceptable level of competence before beginning practise.”

If you reside and want to become a licensed registered nurse within Nunavut you apply under the regulating body called the Registered Nurses Association of Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

In regards to success rates for our program, we currently have had 31 graduates since the start of the BScN program in 2000.

Of these, 93 per cent have successfully passed the CRNE. If the education NAC BScN students are receiving did not meet national standards, or if students are in fact being “pushed through,” then what would explain this success rate?

As graduation nears and we reflect on the last three and half years, they have been anything but “easy.” We have cried, struggled, and spent long hours preparing for exams, projects, and clinical placements, and at times even wanted to give up.

However, due to support from each other, faculty members, and our community, we have been able to overcome many challenges. It is upsetting to hear these misconceptions about our program because of all the hard work we have invested in our education and the challenges we have had to overcome.

Since we are the future nurses of Nunavut we wanted to set the record straight. This letter was written to educate our community about the Nunavut Arctic College Bachelors of Science in Nursing program, as well as to empower and support the current and future nursing students.

However, most importantly we want members of our community to recognize us as qualified, educated, competent professionals that have earned the title of a registered nurse who meet national standards.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the NAC, Dalhousie University, Department of Health and Social services, family, friends and everyone else who has supported, encouraged and continue to mentor us through our journey. We look forward to serving Nunavut as your registered nurses.

For more information on The Nunavut Arctic College Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program visit

Fourth Year Nursing Leadership Students
Nunavut Arctic College Bachelor of Science, Nursing:

Ceilidh MacIsaac
Denise Romero
Lili Ding
Sandy Schwartz
Tina Campbell

Share This Story

(0) Comments